This boys basketball rivalry game at Pioneer Valley was tied after three quarters Tuesday night.
In the fourth quarter, the Pioneer Valley lead kept growing.
When it was over, the Panthers had a 77-58 win over crosstown rival Santa Maria in hand. The Panthers (1-2) out-scored the Saints (1-1) 27-8 in the fourth quarter.
Santa Maria switched from a primarily zone defense to a man-to-man after trailing 43-32 at halftime. The Saints' amped up pressure gave the Panthers a lot of problems in the third quarter, and Santa Maria took a 50-47 lead. Pioneer Valley scored the last three points of the quarter.
Point guard Christian Morin steadied the Panthers' offense against the Saints' pressure in the fourth quarter and the Saints' defense, along with their 3-point shooting, accuracy withered.
"I think our team just started to get more confident," said Morin.
"We started doing good in the fourth quarter. We saw what they had the whole game."
Morin put the Panthers ahead for good when he made two free throws at the 6:54 mark of the fourth quarter to snap a 52-all tie. Shortly thereafter, Morin made a 3-point shot, Ebba Tefera buried another and the Panthers began to pull away.
"We've been throwing a lot of new sets at (our players)," said first-year Pioneer Valley varsity coach Ross Rivera, who coached Pioneer Valley's freshman team last season.
"We just went back to two plays we usually run, and we scored off of those. When you can do that, when you can score off of doing what you know, that really helps build your confidence."
Besides his good ballwork throughout, Morin scored 11 of his 14 points in the second half. Center Elijah Bloodworth led the Panthers with 29 points. Michael Bourbon put in 15.
Morin and Bourbon both came off the bench for the Panthers.
The Panthers withstood Santa Maria guard Thomas Segel's game high 31 points, which included five 3-point baskets. Genaro Morales added 11 points. None of the other Saints scored in double figures.
Segel fouled out with a minute left to play.
As the Saints dropped farther behind in the fourth quarter, they started barreling down the lane into the teeth of the Panthers' pressure and usually either missed forced shots or turned the ball over.
"(The Saints) started rushing on offense," as the Panthers' lead kept mounting, said Morin.
Besides, the Panthers started getting the ball inside to the 6-foot-5 Bloodworth for points again after Santa Maria forward Rolando Pina had neutralized Bloodworth in the third after Bloodworth scored 29 seconds after the break.
Besides, Bloodworth hit a 3-point shot in the fourth, and the Panthers scored on four straight fourth-quarter possessions at one point.
"Our three-point (marksmanship) disappeared, and we lost our intensity on defense after we had a big third quarter," said Santa Maria coach Dave Yamate.
"That's going to happen with a young team. We have three returners," from the team that made it to the sectional semifinals last season, the Saints' last campaign in the CIF Southern Section before they, along with Pioneer Valley and most of the other area sports programs, moved to the Central Section earlier this year.
The Panthers won without senior Jaden Jones, a senior power forward-center who was a team leader last year.
"Jaden was sick, and he didn't come to school," said Rivera.
"If you don't come to school, you don't play in the game. That's one of our rules."
Pioneer Valley will host Orcutt Academy at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in a non-league game. Santa Maria will play Bakersfield Garces Memorial at 5:30 p.m. that evening in the small gym at Morro Bay High School in a first-round Morro Bay Tournament game.
St. Joseph 54, Templeton 41
The Knights (1-0) opened their season with a win at their Hofschulte Gym.
St. Joseph out-scored the Eagles 22-9 in the fourth quarter.
Maddie Miller tossed in five 3-point baskets and scored a game high 28 points for St. Joseph. Corey Fowler scored nine points for the Knights, and Zayda Altheide added eight.
Hanna Clark poured in 21 points for Templeton.
Santa Maria 1, Pioneer Valley 0
Senior Paola Diaz, with an assist from freshman Araneg Leon, scored the goal as the Saints (1-0) made some history on their pitch at Santa Maria's Ralph Baldiviez Stadium.
The win was the first for a Santa Maria girls soccer team over Pioneer Valley in Santa Maria school history.